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[2nd April 2013]
[Kaotoxin Records]

01. Stronger Than All
02. Through Infamy
03. Infestation of Larvae
04. (Interlude)
05. Euthanasia
06. This World Is Ours
07. Leading the Blind
08. This Is Meat
09. Of Those Who Wasted It All

Since the explosion of deathcore acts in the early-to-mid-2000s, a variety of bands have tried their hand at bridging the gap between the more brutal end of technical death metal and the more technical end of deathcore. One such intrepid act is France’s Years of Tyrants, offering their own take on this hybrid with Leading the Blind, a competent, but ultimately unsatisfying, entry in the genre.

Years of Tyrants are clearly composed of capable musicians; there are serious death metal calisthenics going on in some of these songs, and even the most complicated bits are delivered with sufficient skill. Indeed, let it never be said that these gentlemen are poor instrumentalists. However, as the name implies, technical death metal requires technical proficiency as a baseline and adequate ability can’t excuse inadequate songwriting. The differences between Years of Tyrants and the genre stalwarts the band models itself after have far more to do with what they choose to play than how they play it.

Despite clocking in at only twenty-three minutes, Leading the Blind manages to be crammed with more filler than the hot dogs in a public school cafeteria. Half the songs on this record are too short to matter; smothered in the crib before offering anything worthwhile. Technical death metal doesn’t always lend itself to brevity; while it is certainly possible to write a tech death song that is both short and good, many of the genre’s aspects require a little time to articulate. Leading the Blind’s longer tracks are also its most interesting; when Years of Tyrants let ideas develop, some enjoyable moments can actually result. There are some headbang-worthy sections on this record, in addition to some well-executed bits of lead guitar work and the occasional audible bass-line.

Unfortunately, between these occasional spurts of inspiration, Years of Tyrants pass the time with tired deathcore riffs over their hyper-fast triggered drum assault. Perhaps it is a sign of my maturation as an extreme music consumer or simply a symptom of my growing curmudgeonliness, but I am increasingly irritated by hearing the same handful of breakdowns that seem to have been in circulation since the mid-2000s. This is not a condemnation of breakdowns, but of lazy breakdowns; breakdowns that lack either the complexity to make them interesting or the sheer passion to make them exciting. Years of Tyrants have an unfortunate tendency to include wholly unnecessary deathcore parts in the most perfunctory manner. The chugging, chunky chord portions on Leading the Blind pop up seemingly just to provide transitions between the incessant lead noodling and recycled riffage that comprises the majority of the music.

Leading the Blind has no depth or texture, sounding precisely the same on arrival as on departure. Successive songs feel like repeated attempts at the same idea, each with varying levels of success. There is no journey here; no transformative arc to draw the listener in; there is merely a string of songs, punctuated by a series of stale tropes. Mimicking the construction of basically every generic deathcore release from the past decade, this record features a short song used as an introduction, an extended song used as an outro, and two brief instrumentals tossed in the middle. The title track, a sample-backed, piano interlude, provides a case in point. This is well-trodden territory and Years of Tyrants fail to offer anything new.

Despite flashes of quality, Leading the Blind never manages to elevate beyond its basic premise. While the band’s technical death metal chops are up to snuff, the album is held back by songwriting that all too frequently devolves into deathcore-by-the-numbers. Years Of Tyrants might do well to consider sticking to a more straightforward technical death metal style — not because tech death is somehow inherently superior to deathcore or a fusion of the two, but because it seems to be where the band is most comfortable. If Years of Tyrants can learn to play to their strengths, a solid sophomore release is not outside of the realm of possibility.


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